Psychology Science Minute — 09 April 2014
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#102 – Corporate Influence on Research

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Based on research done by Tungaraza, T., & Poole, R., 2007, written by Juanita N. Baker, Ph. D..

Tobacco companies suppressed research on the harmful effects of smoking in the 60s, to protect their financial interests. Do pharmaceutical companies similarly influence drug trial outcome studies?

U.K. psychologists set out to compare the results of studies comparing 1. authors actually benefiting from drug companies (as employees, consultants or shareholders) 2. authors not benefiting but having their research funded or sponsored by industry and 3. authors completely independent of industry (not benefiting nor having research funded by industry).

Overall, positive drug outcomes were reported in 80% of the studies, whereas 20% reported negative findings. Independently funded studies were more likely to report negative findings than industry-funded studies. Scientists benefiting from drug companies when compared with scientists not benefitting were more likely to support the drugs in question and less likely to report negative findings.

Contrary to previous studies, no significant difference occurred between independent and industry-sponsored studies in reporting positive or negative findings. Therefore, the personal gain by the scientist (as employee, shareholder, or consultant) seems to exert a powerful effect on study outcome, whereas merely accepting industry funds for the research appears to have little or no effect.

Reputable journals require authors to disclose the source of funding and their associations with drug companies. Look closely at these disclosures in weighing the study’s credibility and outcomes.

References

Bekelman, J. E., Li, Y. & Gross, P.C. (2003) Scope and impact of financial conflict of interest in biomedical research. A systematic review. Journal of the American Medical Association, 289, 454-465.

Lexchin, J., Bero, L. A., Djulbegovic, B., et al (2003). Pharmaceutical industry sponsorship and research outcome and quality: systematic review. British Medical Journal, 326, 1167-1170.

Tungaraza, T., & Poole, R. (2007). Influence of drug company authorship and sponsorship on drug trial outcomes. The British Journal of Psychiatry, 191, 82-83. doi:10.1192/bjp.bp.106.024547

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